He could never have so assailed big businessmen five years before. He would be as incapable of so assailing ethnic minorities five years hence. And the event upon which he editorialized speeded this change of mind and heart.
For McKinley’s death placed White’s great and good friend T.R. in the White House. Soon opened the Progressive Era—the confidently forward-looking years of “practical idealism” and social reform when White’s literary and political impulses, his attraction toward power and his instinctive generosity, his private ambition and his commitment to the general welfare, were brought into their closest harmony. By 1905 he was writing Gazette editorials frankly confessing that the Populists had been far nearer the truth than he in 1896.
By 1906 he was inveighing, with the vehemence of a Populist of the 1890’s, against certain Republican politicians bought and paid for by the railroads. By 1909 he was editorializing that “the great trusts … are ready to go to any length … to cheat and swindle the people or their rivals or their laboring men” and that the “slaveholding oligarchy was never more solidly arrayed against the free people of this nation than is the bondholding aristocracy today.”
In 1910 he was as embittered against William Howard Taft’s conservatism as T.R. was; and two years later he joyously followed T.R. out of the Republican party to become one of the original Bull Moose Progressives. No man worked harder than he for Progressive Republicanism during the immediately preceding years. None did more for the New Nationalism thereafter.